When he was just eight, Shina Peters told his parents that education was not for him. “I had two siblings and we lived in one room. The prospect of schooling was not that bright, so I opted to start my music career immediately. At that age, I was already the choir leader in our church and I played the organ and keyboard very well.
“At a point, I left my parents and became a houseboy to Chief Ebenezer Obey. I played his guitar whenever he was not at home. When Prince Adekunle had an accident in 1980, they were looking for a guitarist to replace him. They called for an audition and out of 36 people, they picked me,” he recounts.
The suggestion that he might have regretted his decision not to go to school sounds very ridiculous to Shina. He gives a reply in his trademark pidgin English. “No, wetin I wan take am do? if I wan employ professors and PhD holders today, I can afford to employ them. When people started laughing at Shina and saying he was making grammatical errors, Fela told them to keep quiet. He told them that as a doctor of music, he (Fela), sang in Pidgin English.”
Most people don’t know that Peters is a real knight, hence the ‘Sir’ before his name. “I went to London in 1970 and at an event organised by the United Nigerian Cultural Organisation in collaboration with the British Chamber of Commerce and Industry, I was made a knight. They were amazed at how well I could play the guitar at that tender age,” he says.
Just three years short of his 60th birthday, the robust -looking musician has a lot to be thankful for. “I can tell you that I am a very controversial person. After Fela, it is Shina Peters. People like brewing scandals with my name. From drug pushing to impregnating countless women, name them, I have been branded with them. Despite all the controversies, thank God that today, I am still relevant. I have eight grandchildren. My first child was born when I was 14,” he reveals.
One would want to know what happened, how many women were involved and what escapades led to his being a teenage father. But Peters closes up after dropping that brief hint and no amount of persuasion made him open up. “I don’t talk about my family,” he says, dismissing the topic. But not before briefly lauding his famous son and music producer, Clarence Peters. “Clarence is from heaven. He is a genius and I am really happy for him. Unfortunately, I don’t discuss my family,” he reiterates.
Asked what may be responsible for his youthful looks at the age of 57, Peters says, “Nothing special really. Food is not responsible for my looks because I don’t eat. But I swim like a fish. I can swim for 10 hours. One thing I miss as I grow older is my childhood. When my mates were playing with toys, I was on stage or at rehearsals. That is why I love children a lot. I praise children and women in most of my songs,” he says.
How was growing up like with your father?
I didn’t grow up with my father; rather I grew up with my mother, Clarion Chukwura. Most of what I know about my father are what a lot of people know about him. I was born in Ibadan, Oyo State. I used to stay in Mammy Market area in Ibadan with my mother. Premier Hotel is located up a hill and my mother used to tell me when my father was performing there. I used to look at Premier Hotel like (Mount) Olympus. My relationship with my father started five years ago.
Were there times he tried taking you out?
We never had any such time. I started having a relationship with him five years ago. When one starts having a relationship with one’s father when one is older, one tends to understand a lot of things about him which one will not understand as a kid. I understand a lot of his mistakes; I relate with his mistakes and empathize with them. I understand where he was coming from. When we have discussions now, I understand the conversations more, which I am not sure I would have if I were still a kid. There were no picnics or walk-in-the park stories between my father and I, but there are many things to gain and learn from his wealth of experience as an artiste and a man. Our relationship is more on the standpoint of his wealth of knowledge in the arts and as an artiste. We have an artistic relationship.
Is that artistic relationship an influence on your career?
Yes and no because like I said earlier, our relationship started five years ago. A lot of the motivation to be in the arts came from my mother. She however did not tell me the path to tow. She left me to follow my dream. When I made up my mind and told her what I wanted to do, she exclaimed: ‘Thank God.’ She always told me that I am from a creative background. Initially, I didn’t want to do music. I never wanted to be involved in it. When I was young, I examined my father’s mistakes and flaws and decided I didn’t want to inherit any of them. I stayed away from piano lessons and other music-related things that could stimulate my interest. I know I love music and pictures. It was later that the passion came naturally. I had wanted to play football. However, football didn’t come naturally to me but film, music and pictures did. I am not sure I embraced entertainment because it is my father’s area. I didn’t grow with that. I think the influence grew from my mother’s encouragement in ensuring that I was constantly in a creative environment. Although it was impossible during the 80s and 90s to be in the arts and not be influenced by the music of Sir Shina Peters. In that regard, I can say his music also influenced me
What do you mean by his mistakes?
I will direct you to interview him to tell you some of them. But let me tell you that my father is a man who lives life to the fullest. He has experienced life. If a man pushes himself to experience life, there is no way such a man will not make mistakes. This is because in order for one to make the experience complete, one will have to make mistakes and learn from them. It is even tougher when one is an artistic person. It is easy for an accountant to outline how he or she wants to live his or her life. He or she can say I will do my job well and live well. But a creative person cannot do such; he or she cannot write or paint what he doesn’t know. Even if such a person wants to fake the experience, he has to make his audience understand it. So, my father had a wide range of experience as an artiste and with it came mistakes which he learnt from. I also try to learn from them so that I don’t make such mistakes and if I make same mistakes, I will know how to deal with them.
Have you ever watched him perform?
Yes, I watched him perform when I was a kid. It was in Ibadan. I also watched his rehearsals at Premier Hotel.
What is his idea of punishing any erring child?
My father doesn’t know how to punish a child. He believes a child will die if he beats him or her. You also have to understand that he had a very rough childhood. So, the art of raising kids was not something he had the opportunity to learn. He was knighted by the Queen at a young age and he started singing so early. If one experiences such at a tender age, one will not lead a normal life. I think it is part of the sacrifices artistes sometimes make if they want to be great. People look at some artistes today and marvel at their achievements. But they don’t know the sacrifices they made especially those who are not from an influential background. If my father had a better chance and was dealt with better cards, he would have been a far better father in the conventional sense. But what he lacks in that area, he makes up for in being a better father in experience. A child cannot play some pranks and think my father will not know. Perhaps, some fathers will handle such a situation by beating the offending child but my father will probably not take it that way. He tells a child where he will end up if he treads certain paths.
How do you feel being a son to him?
I have not really thought of it. I haven’t really given it a thought. I am grateful for the fact that he is a legend. I am also happy that I can say this is who my father is. I can also point to what he has achieved in the industry. But I don’t flaunt it.
How has his name opened doors for you?
I am one of those whose fathers’ good names have yet to open doors for. It is because I started my career from the scratch. I have been a personal assistant, sound engineer and music producer from the scratch to the top. In fact, the name gives me more challenge because both my parents are known in the entertainment industry. I think it is until I start moving to the generation my parents appeal to that their names will start opening doors for me. I think when my business starts moving to that kind of environment, my father’s name will start opening doors for me. I have not worked my way to that realm.
How close are you to him?
I am not the closest physically to my father but because of the arts; we share strong perspectives and connections that make us really close.
How did he handle misunderstanding with your mother?
You will need to ask them because I don’t want to put my hand in that area.